Armenian Genocide Survivors File $3 Billion Class Action Suit

LOS ANGELES–American descendants of the Armenian Genocide filed a $3 billion lawsuit Monday against New York Life Insurance Company. 84 years after members of his family were brutally killed in the Armenian Genocide–Martin Marootian–84–filed the lawsuit to recover the life insurance benefits that were wrongfully withheld. The case is in the federal court as a class action filed by Marootian on behalf of all Armenia’s who owned New York Life policies–who were massacred in the Armenian Genocide–and whose beneficiaries were never paid the insurance benefits. The case is called Martin Marootian vs. New York Life Insurance Company–Case No. CV-99-12073.

At the beginning of the twentieth century–New Life expanded its operations into the Turkish Ottoman Empire in order–it said–to "spread the blessings of life insurance throughout the world." Armenia’s who lived among the Turks were New York Life’s best customers. By the end of 1914–New York Life was collecting premiums on 10,000 insurance policies sold to the Armenia’s. On April 24–1915–the Turkish Ottoman Empire began the first genocide of the 20th century with the massacre of almost two million Armenia’s. Among the victims were the policy owners–and New York Life never paid the insurance benefits to their families.

As described in the lawsuit–Marootian’s uncle purchased a policy in 1910 worth 3000 French Fran’s. In June–1915–Marootian’s uncle–aunt and their children were massacred. Marootian’s mother submitted a claim to New York Life. According to the lawsuit–the Marootian family tried for more than 75 years to obtain the promised benefits–but New York Life denied any responsibility and claimed that it had transferred all the Armenian policies to a French insurance company in the 1920s. New York Life also demanded that the survivors produce nonexistnent documen’s–life death certificates.

"The Turkish government never issued death certificates," explains Marootian. "Even today–Turkey refuses to admit its role in killing 2 million Armenia’s."

Marootian is represented by Glendale attorney–Vartkes Yeghiayan. An expert on the legal aspects of the Armenian Genocide–he began work on the Armenian Genocide cases since 1970. His focus on New York Life began in 1987.

"I read Morgenthau’s memoirs," said Yeghiayan. "Morgenthau was the US Ambassador to the Turkish Ottoman Empire. From his memoirs–I learned that the Grand Vizier–Talaat–demanded a list from Morgenthau of all Armenian policy owners of New York Life–stating that all Armenia’s had been killed and had no heirs and that–consequently–the insurance benefits must be forfeited to Turkey. New York Life never paid–and Morgenthau refused to give turkey the list of policy owners. I realized that New York Life just kept them–and even worse–kept quit about them. New York Life never told the millions of survivors about the policies."

"To paraphrase President Lincoln–’Four score and seven years ago,’ New York Life made a promise to Mr. Marootian’s uncle," Yeghiayan said. "But New York Life never paid the benefits due on thousands of policies sold before the Armenian Genocide. New York Life was holding millions of dollars–which today has grown to more than $3 billion–that does not belong to them. Until now–New York Life has had no incentive to identify the rightful heirs and return the money to them. We intend to give them an incentive," Yeghiayan concluded.

Marootian seeks legal redress in federal court for an order requiring New York Life to identify the insurance benefits which belong to the Armenia’s–to identify the rightful heirs–and to pay the benefits to the Armenian Genocide victims.

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